Atlantis Fritillary
Speyeria atlantis

Family Description:
Some authors consider this species to be a complex of many species or subspecies.
The caterpillar is generally mottled black and brown and is marked lengthwise with two off-white stripes along the back. It is covered with orange spines tipped with black.
Adult: The Fritillaries as a group are very similar in appearance, and the differences between individual species are often minor and difficult to see. Positive identification to the species level is difficult and requires detailed examination. This is a medium-sized Fritillary, with a wingspan of 1 to 2 inches. Its appearance may vary between regions. Generally, the upperside is orangish brown and outlined with either a thick black line or two thin black lines. The bases of the wings may appear clouded with brown or blackish brown. The forewing is marked with short, wavy black lines, three of which on the leading edge are nearly parallel. There is also a row of black spots, followed by a row of black, inverted "v"-shaped marks along the outside edge. The wing veins are outlined in black. The hindwing is similarly marked. Underneath, the forewing is orange at the base and pale orange to yellow at the tip, marked with black as above and with a row of silver triangles, tipped with brown or black, near the outer edge. The hindwing is purplish brown to dark brown and marked with a yellow band near the outer edge; it is spotted with silver spots.

This species ranges from central British Columbia east across Canada to the east coast, extending south into the U.S. from Minnesota to Virginia. It also occurs in isolated patches of the western U.S., in northern Idaho, western Montana, Colorado, and western South Dakota.


It is found most often in forest openings, bogs, moist meadows, and along streams.


Caterpillar: Caterpillars feed on the leaves of several species of violets (Viola spp.).
Adult: Butterflies drink nectar from a variety of flowers. Additional moisture and nutrients may also be obtained from mud and dung.


There is one new generation of caterpillars each year. Eggs hatch in the fall; the newly emerged caterpillars, having not yet fed, enter a physiological state called diapause to overwinter. In the spring the young caterpillars feed on the new leaves of host plants. Adults generally fly from mid-June through September. The color pattern of adults is believed to be influenced by exposure to moisture, temperature, and solar radiation during development. Fritillaries are long-lived for a butterfly, surviving several weeks to months.


Males actively patrol in search of receptive females in open areas. pheromones, chemicals used to locate and attract the opposite sex, are produced by both male and female Fritillaries. These chemicals are believed to play an important role in assisting these butterflies to find and recognize other members of their own species. Eggs are laid singly near host plants. In cases where the violet plant has already withered and blown away, females are still able to lay their eggs near to where the host plant will reappear the next spring. This is possible, it is believed, because females are able to locate violet roots by smell!

Idaho Status: Unprotected nongame species.
Global Rank:

G5; populations are widespread, abundant, and secure.

Ferris, C.D. and F.M. Brown (eds.) 1981. Butterflies of the Rocky Mountain States. Univ. of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma, USA, 442 pp.

Opler, P. A., H. Pavulaan, and R. E. Stanford. 1995. Butterflies of North America. Jamestown, North Dakota, USA: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Home Page. (Version 05Nov98).

Opler, P. A. and A. B.Wright. 1999. A Field Guide to the Western Butterflies.  Second Edition.  Peterson Field Guide Series. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, New York, USA, 540 pp.

Pyle, R. M. 1981. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, New York, USA, 924 pp.

Scott, J. A. 1986. The Butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, USA, 583 pp.

Stanford, R. E. and P. A. Opler. 1993. Atlas of Western U.S.A. Butterflies (Including Adjacent Parts of Canada and Mexico). Published by authors, Denver, Colorado, USA, 275 pp.